Estonia, the Blockchain Haven: The most advanced digital society in the world

“Estonia is now a blockchain nation”, then president Ilves declared in 2016. He couldn’t have been more correct. Since the turn of the century, the country has made tremendous progress in digitizing major areas of the government and society. Estonia was one of the first countries to put keen interest in blockchain technology and has now become what WIRED magazine describes as ‘the most advanced digital society in the world’.

Welcome to e-Estonia: ‘The most advanced digital society in the world’

Estonia is a small country of about 1.3 million people located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Over the years, the country has continued to develop its digital capacities with a clear vision of becoming a safe e-state with automatic e-services available 24/7. It is hard to believe that only two decades ago, the majority of the people in the country had no access to the internet. E-Estonia is Estonia’s digital society, an array of its best e-solutions. E-Estonia doesn’t have a centralized database – all information is held in a distributed data system.

KSI: Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) blockchain technology

After the 2007 cyber attacks on Estonia, the government needed a safeguard and found this in a Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) blockchain technology. With this blockchain, no one, not even government itself can manipulate the data and get away with that. KSI blockchain has, therefore, become the pillar for numerous digital solutions in the country like e-governance, e-healthcare, e-residency, e-identity, and X-Road.

Paperless court proceedings with Blockchain

Blockchain technology is not only used to secure information, it also verifies the truthfulness of that information. This is very useful in paperless court proceedings where blockchain is used to verify court papers and e-judgments. One can initiate a court process remotely and sometimes the case can be addressed without going to a court building. The law is on the side of blockchain, literally.

Estonians can follow all stages of the lawmaking process making it one of the most transparent. It’s not just Estonians; people from other countries can view the laws on the electronic National Gazette.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]To protect the data against being tampered with, RIK already uses blockchain technology in the National Gazette, Register of Wills, Digital Court File, Land Register and Business Register. The purpose of these government e-services (registers) is to guarantee the integrity of information and the legal rights of ownership.[/perfectpullquote]

In healthcare, Estonia has successfully put medical records of its citizens on the KSI blockchain network. The records are easily accessed and used to issue digital prescriptions.

Estonia’s e-Land Register and e-Business Register are also currently linked to the blockchain.

Most notable application of the blockchain would be the security of public and private data in the X-Road framework. X-Road is the backbone of e-Estonia. It links all data and enables exchange between public and private organizations.

Factors for Estonia’s blockchain success

Estonia’s government has continually shown strong determination to digitize the country. The willingness to experiment new technologies like blockchain takes great courage. They are also fortunate; they are a small and young population – no better recipe for digital advancement. 98 percent of Estonians use ID cards and 88 percent, regular internet. The cyber-attacks of 2007 helped push the country into blockchain – Some good from bad.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]  “It can be much easier to build a digital society if there are no legacy systems and you can start from scratch,”

Kaspar Korjus (Head of Estonia’s e-residency programme) [/perfectpullquote]

Leading the Nations: Share their blockchain-powered e-solutions

Estonia is not keeping their success to themselves. They already share their blockchain-powered e-solutions within and outside Europe. Finland, for instance, is currently using X-Road platform developed by Estonia for managing public and private data. Also, US Department of Energy has selected Guardtime, developers of KSI blockchain to help develop blockchain cybersecurity for its energy exchanges. NATO and the European Union use solutions developed by Estonia too.

Estonia is not resting on her oars; the country will keep exploring benefits of blockchain. According to Mehis Sihvart, Director of the Centre of Registers and Information Systems (RIK);

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“As blockchain technology is evolving very quickly, it is difficult to predict all the benefits and options it might offer in the coming years, but RIK definitely wants to remain at the forefront of implementing the newest technology for its systems and registers.”[/perfectpullquote]

Husband, Father, Friend | Writer at TowardsDataScience and Hackernoon | Salih Sarikaya is a data &product & media professional with many years of experience | Top Tech Influencers of USA (CES2017-Onalytica) | Key Blockchain Influencer (Business Insider, DisruptorDaily, TokenTarget, KLOUT, MOZ) | Entrepreneur | Author | Pro Member of PEN America & SPJ | Computational Sociology MA


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